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Picture of a closed sign on a street in Europe due to COVID.There are a lot of nights these days when I can’t sleep. Three times this week, I woke up at one in the morning and couldn’t go back to bed. Thoughts of calamity filled my head.

Is the economy going to recover? What if I can’t find work? What if the variants render the vaccine irrelevant? How long can we keep writing stimulus checks? What if someone I love gets COVID?

After doing some research, I found that, much as I suspected, I’m not alone.

A US Census Bureau survey taken in December 2020 found that 42% of people reported suffering from either anxiety or depression. That’s up from only 11% in a survey taken from January to June of 2019.

That means that almost a third of the adult population is experiencing anxiety or depression caused by the pandemic.

13% of adults reported new or increased substance abuse due to COVID-related stress.

What’s more is that a survey in June of 2020 found that almost 11% of adults had suicidal ideation in the past 30 days. That’s up from just 4% in 2018 when participants were asked if they’d had suicidal ideation in the past 12 months.

Regardless of what happens with the pandemic in the coming year or years, these feelings aren’t likely to go away anytime soon. 14% of New Yorkers surveyed more than 14 years after 9/11 reported still having post-traumatic stress disorder and 15% reported depression. Compare that to similar populations where 5% reported PTSD and 8% reported depression.

That is to say, these effects last far longer than the event that caused them.

According to the CDC, stress can cause:

  • Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration.
  • Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares.
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Worsening of mental health conditions.
  • Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances.

According to Healthline, the effects of anxiety can include:

  • A sense of doom.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Depression.
  • Headaches.
  • Irritability.
  • Pounding heart.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Loss of libido.
  • Upset stomach.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Muscle aches and other pains.

Anxiety can cause problems in the workplace, too, including missed deadlines and higher employee turnover.

This can lead to a vicious circle which could easily spin out of control for vulnerable populations. Missed deadlines could mean job loss during a time when the economy is already tough. Job loss, or poor work performance, further fuels the anxiety and depression. 

KFF found that 54% of adults in households with job loss or reduced incomes suffer from mental illness compared with 32% in adults in unaffected households.

Again, consider that nearly a third of the population is experiencing new symptoms.

Only time will tell if these numbers plateau where they are or if they get worse as the effects of the pandemic wear on.